By Barb Price
Discussions about the Keystone XL pipeline have been throwing around numbers like candy at a parade. Supporters of the pipeline have been making promises of up to 250,000 jobs being created; lowered gas prices; energy security; thousands of gallons of North Dakota oil being sent south in the pipeline. . . It goes on and on.
Let’s look at some of the numbers, especially as they relate to North Dakota.
Several studies have been done of the pipeline project by those that support and those that object to the project. For this article we will look mainly at economic issues. Creating jobs is a big issue concerning the pipeline project.
With the need for new jobs in North Dakota and nation wide, there have been many estimates of how many jobs will be created. In the beginning it was under 10,000, it went up to 20,000 and most recently it had been up to 250,000 jobs. This last number comes straight from TransCanada.
However, the analysis of the pipeline project does not even estimate job numbers but talks about creating “118,964 person-years of employment.” Person-years of employment is economic speak for the equivalent of one person working for one year. This is an important distinction from “permanent jobs” because construction jobs are by nature temporary. For example, it is estimated that construction will last two years. Instead of talking about a single job lasting two years, TransCanada talks about two jobs being created for one year each.
Keystone’s initial estimate in 2008 was “‘a peak workforce of approximately 3,500 to 4,200 construction personnel’ in temporary jobs building the pipeline.” Cornell University ILR School Global Labor Institute submitted a report to the state department “estimating between 2,500 to 4,650 temporary, direct jobs per year over a two-year span.” The State Department produced similar results in their evaluation of the data.
There are claims of new jobs in the steel industry making steel for the pipes. TransCanada is already stockpiling Keystone pipe in Gascoyne, North Dakota and South Dakota. According to a report by Cornell University ILR School Global Labor Institute, it is almost certain that the pipe is made “from steel made in China and India.”
Governor Dalrymple, Senator Hoeven, and Congressman Berg continue to promote the many benefits the pipeline will bring to North Dakota. The Keystone XL Pipeline does not go through North Dakota. There will be jobs for the five states where the pipeline will travel, but not for people living in North Dakota.
A letter by the Industrial Commission of North Dakota states, “The Keystone XL Pipeline is a major step in increasing take away capacity for crude oil production from the rapidly developing U.S. Williston Basin.” The EIS for the Keystone XL Pipeline states, “ Bakken Marketlink Project would allow transport of up to 100,000 bpd of crude oil from the Bakken formation in the Williston Basin in Montana and North Dakota.
The North Dakota portion will be such a small amount that there is no solid commitment to actually build the connecting pipeline to Baker, MT.
Senator Hoeven was quoted in the Bismarck Tribune saying that construction of the Keystone Pipeline “would take 500 trucks a day off of North Dakota roads.”
If 500 trucks are taken off the roads then 500 truck drivers will lose their jobs in North Dakota.
The promise of Energy Security is questionable at best. The New York Times stated, “What pipeline advocates . . . fail to mention is that much of the tar sands oil that would be refined on the Gulf Coast is destined for export. Six companies have already contracted for three quarters of the oil. Five are foreign, and the business model of the one American company – Valero – is geared toward export.”
Keystone Pipeline is easily in the national interest of Canada, and in the interest of the six companies that will refine the tar sands crude in the Gulf (tax-free trade zones). The Keystone XL Pipeline most certainly will create jobs globally. But it is hard to see how enabling Canada to sell its oil to the rest of the world is in the National interest of the United States or good in any way for North Dakota.